Because this is a new volume, I should start off with a recap of everything that happened before! After all, I am not sure how long it will be between the time of reading the last volume and this one. You may need reminded of who everybody is, what recently happened, and so on.
However, that sounds boring to write at the moment. Furthermore, there is no law saying that I am not allowed to skip this to do it later once I complete this volume. If there was a law, I would have the power to overrule it in anyways.
So let us skip the recap for a later time to resume where we left off instead!
Of course, you, my reader, probably will not even read any of this if I replace this small introduction with a proper one later on. You will never have known that this existed in the first place. This means that I could say whatever I wish and nobody will know about it!
Hmm. Is there anything I would like to say?
Anything that I wish to tell my readers that they will never actually get to hear?
Unfortunately, I cannot think of anything to say that I would not say to anybody’s face. After all, I do not believe in lying nor hiding the truth, and none of you should either!
Well, that aside, let us move on. Welcome to the third volume, my readers who will probably not ever read this page due to its future replacement.
We went on the attack soon after the raid on our territory. There may have been a time where dungeons could be solely defensive places – where they were able to only focus on building up their defenses to stave off the outside world. While it was normal for dungeons to send their monsters out into the world for food, resources, and other necessities, having dungeons wage war against the outside world via the deployment of monsters was next to unheard of. There may have been a few cases of it from when dungeons were much more prominent in the world, but these cases ended in failure every time. After all, part of what makes monsters within a dungeon so powerful is that they share in the strength of the dungeon. A dungeon’s monsters are always weaker when outside of the dungeon’s territory, and they do not gain the benefits that the dungeons may have acquired either. Furthermore, there are no traps to defend them, more monsters cannot be easily summoned, and so forth.
In other words, to send monsters outside of a dungeon’s territory to attack any significant group of humans had always been suicidal.
But those monsters were not my monsters.
My monsters? Well, no humans would prove to be a match for them even when it came to fighting beyond our dungeon’s territory.
I shall give you one such example – I shall tell you of our earliest strike back against the humans.
You may recall that there were checkpoints set up within the two passages leading from my dungeon to the outside of the volcano. These checkpoints were barricaded, hosted human guards at all hours, and served as defenses to prevent my monsters from ever escaping the volcano.
In addition to that, you may recall that the first organized show of force featuring my monsters ended with the death of all humans who witnessed it. And that was before all of my constructs were even properly outfitted with spears and shields.
The humans at the chokepoints expected something like random monsters approaching who could be killed from a distance – from behind their defenses with long-range weapons.
They did not expect properly equipped monsters marching in formation with shields to protect themselves. Well, they were not quite marching. I did not even know what marching was yet. More importantly, their shields were durable enough to easily withstand the arrows and bullets that came at them. The humans panicked and shot everything they had to offer at my approaching line of shielded constructs led by Dian and Sidi.
Then my monsters stopped.
The humans were confused as to why my monsters suddenly stopped in their tracks, allowing them to be shot at without relent by their weapons.
That was when flames came from over the offensive line’s heads to spill out across the human’s defensive line. After all, the humans were not the only ones with long-range capabilities. Both Corra and my pyre emperor were able to shoot their scorching flames from afar – from behind the mobile defenses that were my constructs and gnomes.
Once the human line was set aflame, Dian and Sidi charged forth with their spears while leaving the constructs behind to guard Corra and my pyre emperor. The humans were either burned to death or impaled on the spears of my Dian and Sidi. Regardless of how they met it, their deaths came quickly. This was repeated at each chokepoint.
The corpses of the humans and all of their supplies were brought back to the dungeon after the chokepoints were wiped out. Some humans escaped from each chokepoint to warn the others outside of the volcano of what happened, but that was of little concern. What mattered was that we not only showed the humans we would not allow their transgressions to continue without retaliation, but that we also acquired weapons and defenses we could use against those who created them.
It was time to expand the territory of my dungeon.
From the main entrance and the northern entrance to the dungeon, I extended my territory to nearly reach where the previous chokepoints were set up. From there, we used the defensive barricades acquired from the humans to set up small outposts of our own. These outposts had tunnels lined with traps behind them so that my monsters could escape to safety beyond the traps should they ever need to. And, to steal strategy from the humans, I summoned six more constructs—basalt constructs, this time—to position three at each outpost. These constructs equipped the ranged weapons of the humans and even wore the armor of them once our smithy modified the human armor to fit on their bodies.
I decided that basalt constructs would be used for internal defense of the dungeon itself while my obsidian constructs would be used in external defenses and offenses. Naturally, this included Ahti as part of the internal force, and Dian and Sidi as part of the external force.
Whenever my obsidian constructs were not partaking in external offenses, they found interest in assisting Sidi and Dian with the “farm” that was set up. Dian and Sidi found enjoyment in tending to those tentacled plants that produced the delicious seeds, and the obsidian constructs took after them. Whenever there was nothing else to do, Dian and Sidi could be found sitting together simply looking over the work that they accomplished with their farm.
The farm itself may not have been set up as efficiently as the one that inspired it at Deta’s village, but it produced enough seeds to provide us with all the sustenance we needed. Fortunately, only a select few of us actually needed to eat. Lucia proved to be the biggest eater of us all, which came as a surprise. Corra hardly ate as did my aurbold, my pyre emperor only ate every few days, Novla had a daily large meal, and I only felt the need to eat a small meal once a day. While I usually ate more than I needed to because the social act of eating was enjoyable, as was the taste of the seeds, Lucia needed to eat multiple times a day.
Now that all of that has been covered, I believe I know a good first conversation for this volume – one that was important and would be the foundation to many of our future advancements.
Novla requested a meeting with me. Despite the fact that he was every bit a member of our family as everybody else was, he began to treat me more formally than everybody else after the human raid against us. Almost all of his time was spent working, improving his forging area with help from Lucia, or sleeping. If he was not working then he was asleep and vise-versa.
Yet, despite working himself perhaps harder than anybody else was, he seemed genuinely happy to have acquired such a purpose.
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“Elder CORE,” Novla said once I made it over to his working area. I should mention that he began to call me “Elder CORE” as part of that new, formal treatment. I am sure that you already know this but, for those who may not know, the elder is the highest rank within an aurbold’s community. To affix “Elder” before my name was a sign of great respect – an acknowledgement that I was his leader.
Lord, Master, and now Elder. My monsters had a growing list of titles for me.
“Did you rest well?” I asked Novla. Before our conversation, he slept for roughly half a day.
Novla smiled and nodded his head. “I did.”
“Good. What did you want to talk about?”
“Lucia says the humans want this volcano for its resources.”
“That’s right. They wish to strip this entire island of its resources for their constructions.”
“Then why don’t we take advantage of the resources that the humans seek? There are many metals within these tunnels we may acquire. We can build more defenses with them, weapons, arrows for the bows taken from the humans – we should be stockpiling the resources the humans want.”
“Did you do this at Deta’s village?”
“We tried… but our techniques were not as advanced as the ones Lucia has shown me. If we forge together the technology of humans with the natural ability to detect valuable metals shared among my kind, there should be no difficulty in harvesting more than we need.”
“I see. What do you recommend, Novla?”
“You can… what did you call it? Summon?”
“You can summon more of my kind, yes?”
“I can summon more mountain kobolds and aurbolds, but not mahaguin like you.”
“Mountain kobolds… younglings, but they are fast and full of energy. At the village, we would send groups of mountain kobolds out under the supervision of aurbolds to gather resources. I recommend summoning a small group of mountain kobolds once I make pickaxes for them. The aurbold will enough on his own to supervise them as long as it is a small group. Together, they can gather resources, bring them back here, and then I will forge with them.”
I placed a hand on Novla’s shoulder and squeezed. “That is a good idea. Thank you, Novla. How many kobolds would be enough? Five?”
“Five per aurbold is good.”
“Then if I summon another aurbold, I can summon ten kobolds.”
“I see. Then that is what I will do. I will wait until the pickaxes are finished before summoning any of them. Is there anything else that you require?”
“No, Elder CORE.”
“What about a massage from Crim?”
Novla turned his head to the side and stepped away from me. “I… I am grateful for the offer but will have to decline.”
“What if I make sure that no others see you during it?”
Novla may have been a very large and muscular mahaguin, but the first massage Crim gave him proved just how effective they were on him. A massage from Crim could turn even the stern and tough Novla into a young monster melting from pleasure.
Before we could continue talking, though, somebody else came running over to us.
“My lord, my lord!” Corra shouted. “The constructs found this at the northern post!”
Corra held up her hands to reveal a small, red creature covered in a hard exoskeleton with multiple legs sticking out from its sides with two, large claws sticking out from the front of its circular body. These claws kept on trying to snip at Corra’s fingers, but she held the creature in such a way that they could not reach.
“What is it?” I asked.
“I do not know, my lord, but I thought you would like to see it!” Corra explained.
I tilted my head at the curious creature before sticking a single finger out toward it. If you have an idea of what the creature was, it should be obvious what happened once I held a finger in front of it.
One of its pincer-like claws snapped itself around my finger.
“How – how dare you attack my lord?!” Corra shouted at the creature, tearing it away from my finger. However, tearing it away from me didn’t remove the closed claw around my finger. All it did was separate the clawed arm from the rest of its body. “My – my lord! Are you alright?!”
I lifted my finger up to before my eyes to look at the claw. “I’m fine,” I answered before prying the claw open with my other hand. White flesh was visible within the bumpy, red arm that was separated from the creature. Admittedly, ever since eating the flesh of the pyre emperor we defeated, I was growing more and more curious in tasting all sorts of different creatures.
“It’s a volcano crab,” Lucia answered after walking over to us. Corra’s shouting drew the attention of everybody nearby. It was impossible to be within our dungeon’s territory and not hear her shouting. “I don’t know what one was doing inside of the volcano seeing as how they prefer to spend their time on the rocks outside of it. They tend to feed on the plants that grow around the gas vents. They are also,” Lucia focused her eyes on the creature, “very delicious. Many quests have been commissioned to bring these crabs back to the chefs at the base. I am particularly fond of them after they have been boiled and dipped in butter.”
“Butter?” I asked. “What is ‘butter?’”
Lucia showed a rare expression of shock for a moment before recomposing herself. “I… suppose that it makes sense for monsters within a volcano to not know of butter. There are no milk-producing animals around here, either. The only ones are the cows and goats brought from the mainland. To answer your question, butter is a magnificent creation that enhances the flavor of everything that it touches.”
“What is milk?”
“A liquid that comes from mammals – particularly mothers, used to feed their young.”
“And milk is turned into butter?”
“Correct, though I am not sure of the process myself.”
“Elder CORE,” Novla spoke up, “I am not sure if it is what you are talking about… but we harvested the fluid that wild cave leeches fed to their young and used it for many purposes.”
“Lucia, do ‘wild cave leeches’ have milk?” I asked.
“I – what?” Lucia asked. “Cave leeches? Well… we have observed them producing a liquid for their nests before… but the thought of treating it as milk has never crossed any of our minds. It is… not exactly a pleasant thought. You have never seen a cave leech, have you?”
“This is the first time I am hearing about them.”
“Well, if you saw one, then you would understand just how unappetizing the idea of using their ‘milk’ for anything is. However… if we have no other choices, and if it truly can be used as a substitute… it may be worth trying. For the sake of research and discovery, of course.”
“Where can cave leeches be found?”
“They are rather rare and prefer dark, untraveled passages where they—”
“There is a large tunnel deeper below where they come to find mates and breed,” Novla interrupted. “But it is dangerous. They attack anything that comes near them, and their aggression is at its worst when they are mating and around their young.”
“I want to see one,” I said. “And I want to try their milk. If I send you with support, will you be able to bring them back for me?”
Novla tilted his head. “What about the pickaxes?”
“After you make the pickaxes. You can go while waiting for the kobolds to bring back materials for you.”
“It would interrupt my sleep,” Novla said under his breath – I could hardly hear him, “but alright. If that’s what you want.”
“Good. Get started on the pickaxes so I can experience the leeches as soon as possible. As for the ‘crab,’” I paused to turn and look at Corra and the crab.
Only, there was a problem.
Each and every single one of the crab’s legs was on the ground, and the body of the creature was crushed underneath her foot.
“I punished it for attacking you, my lord!” Corra said with a bright smile on her face.
I should have expected that.